Krishna repeats that a person who acts properly without caring about “the fruit of action” practices yoga, which is inextricably tied to renunciation. After achieving yoga through action, one can adopt quietude. This requires first elevating “the self through the self” to make the self a friend. The highest self combines opposites like cold and heat, pride and disgrace, or clay and gold. Such a sage sustains their insight among friends and enemies alike, having joined the self to yoga in meditation and shed sensory concerns. This restraint brings the yoga practitioner closer to Krishna.
Krishna juxtaposes the different kinds of self he has outlined. There is the absolute self of Brahman, which is the truth of each person’s self and unifies all beings; there is the individual eternal self, which the wise realize is merely a fraction of Brahman like a drop of water in the ocean; and there is the worldly self, which is really only a body and not a true self at all. One interpretation of Krishna’s claim here is that the material self learns through yoga to elevate the higher self to the absolute self of Brahman.
Yoga is not about pursuing the extremes of indulgence or asceticism; it destroys all pain by allowing people to abide “in the self alone” without desire, like a flame that stands still without wind. One holds back one’s thoughts and reaches contentment, “seeing the self / by the self, / in the self” and reaching the “place / of endless joy” that exceeds the senses. Once there, one’s commitment to that place is unshakable and dissolves the “bond to pain.” One can become quiet, thinking of nothing but the self and redirecting the mind to control the self whenever it wanders. This peace of mind and calmness lead the practitioner to “endless joy” and Brahman by showing them that “the self is / in all beings / and all beings / are in the self.” Others who recognize this unity and equality of all beings and sensations come to live with and in Krishna.
Contrary to many common schools of thought in the Gita’s time, to Krishna, yoga is not about learning to better control one’s actions, but rather about learning to give up on control altogether. Its goal is not to teach the right kind or degree of desire, but to erode one’s attachment to desire altogether. The attachment to desire is closely associated with the “bond to pain,” which generally stems from unfulfilled desires that do not truly matter to the wise. This is because Brahman is self-sufficient, so the knowledge of it can lead one away from worldly attachments.
Arjuna asks how anyone can find a “stable foundation” for yoga since the mind always wanders. Krishna explains that, while this is difficult, practice, restraint, and dedication can make it possible.
Arjuna acknowledges that he has far from achieved the absolute concentration that Krishna demands.
Arjuna asks what happens to one who fails to fulfill yoga, for they must be lost, and implores Krishna to eradicate all his doubt, for no one else can do so. Krishna explains that someone who tries but fails to practice yoga is simply reincarnated and allowed to continue trying, perhaps in a situation more conducive to their success, as in a family of yoga practitioners. The practice of one’s past lives continue to live in the present, and yoga practitioners are not only purified through their many lives but also superior to the disciplined, wise, and devoted. Among yoga practitioners, Krishna explains that those who love and trust him are “the most closely joined to yoga.”
Arjuna recognizes that wisdom is a difficult goal, but Krishna assures him that it is worth trying even if one does not achieve wisdom in this lifetime or in the foreseeable future. One can nevertheless be rewarded in the next life, and the goal of enlightenment may require numerous lifetimes to achieve.